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A public piano was damaged with an adhesive in Royal Oak, leaving passersby unable to play it.

The Royal Oak Police Department is looking for the culprit who silenced the instrument.

The piano on South Washington Avenue was one of nine spread throughout downtown Royal Oak for anyone to play. Its keys were damaged with glue sometime between late Aug. 1 and early Aug. 2, police said.

"I hope this is a one-time thing. We haven’t had any problems in the past," said Jason Gittinger, chair of Royal Oak's Commission for the Arts and executive producer of the Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music. "I wouldn't be able to speculate (on why someone would do this) other than they want to silence the piano."

Sgt. Don Swiatkowski of the Royal Oak Police Department says the investigation into the vandalism is still open, and officials are looking for anything that could identify the culprit.

"We look for witnesses; we look for video," Swiatkowski said. "Maybe someone will give us a call. We look to see anything that factors in."

Royal Oak's arts commission began the Public Piano Project last year. Each instrument is donated and features artwork with positive messages, such as "Anything can happen. Anything can be," and cheerful drawings.

A replacement piano will be prepared and moved in by Professionalmovers.com, a Michigan moving company that has partnered with the arts commission to move and store the pianos that are donated. Local schools and volunteers will work on painting the piano for display, Gittinger says, and it should be outside the former location of Gayle's Chocolates sometime next week.

The Public Piano Project was Gittinger's brainchild, an idea he had when he decided he needed to "put my money and efforts where my mouth is," he said. He and his daughters began a pilot project with the placement of a piano in front of his music school during the summer of 2016.

"I cannot express enough how many people have been generous to us," he said. "There's a lot of pianos sitting in people’s basements or living rooms. We take them and give them a supernova of a life on their way out. They do end up discarded at the end, but they still give some music to the world."

The project allows people's friends and nearby strangers to witness the undiscovered talent of those who sit down and play, Gittinger says.

"You never know how many people are musical or have that inside of them," he said. "When you see a piano and someone sits down to play a classical concerto or a pop song, all kinds of wonderful stuff starts happening. People start smiling as they're walking by. It puts a lot of joy in neighbors."

nryan@detroitnews.com

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